Tag Archives: Denver Broncos

2018 NFL Rookies Most Likely Too…

The 2018 NFL season is drawing closer as Training Camps have opened across the League. Hopefully, we can spend more time talking about the action on the field and not who is, or isn’t showing up at the Hall of Famer enshrinement and other off-the-field issues.

The excitement is high to see the return of All-Pros and perennial Pro Bowlers that missed last season due to injury like J.J. Watt, David Johnson, Odell Beckham Junior and Andrew Luck to name a few. But, there’s also the anticipation of watching new stars begin their pro football journey.

256 players were drafted in April–39 linebackers, the most of any position–and there are several dozens more that will make rosters as free agents. I looked into my crystal ball and here’s how I see the 2018 class fairing in their careers.

Josh Rosen felt he should’ve been the number one overall pick, saying “there were nine mistakes made ahead of me.” The UCLA product will be out to prove he was right. Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Most likely to lead the NFL in passing yards….

Josh Rosen (10th Overall Pick), Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was considered the most pro-ready of the quarterbacks in the 2018 class, having played in a pro-style system at UCLA, for a former NFL head coach. He’ll also play in an NFC West division that arguably has the best collective talent at the QB position. The style of play is even more up-tempo than the direction the rest of the league has taken. The opportunities will be there as he goes toe to toe with Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff.

Most likely to lead the NFL in rushing yards….

The safe and most popular pick would be Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, the second overall selection in the draft. While I believe Barkley will be a very productive back in both the run and pass game with the Giants, in the mold of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, but because he plays on the same unit as Odell Beckham Junior, Sterling Shepherd and Evan Ingram, New York will have a more balanced attack and he won’t carry the ball at a high rate.

So I’m going with another NFC East rookie runner, Darius Guice of Washington. The Former LSU back was selected with the 59th pick in the 2nd round. He slipped in the draft due to character issues, but many “experts” claim he was a first round talent. Guice is a physical, downhill runner who at 5’11” 224 pounds wants to play like Marshawn Lynch. He’ll be playing with Alex Smith who handed off to the 2017 NFL Leading rusher Kareem Hunt in Kansas City last season. Hunt was a 3rd round selection (pick 86) last spring.

Most likely to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards or receiving TDs

Michael Gallup (3rd round, 81st Pick), Dallas Cowboys. Jason Whitten has retired. Dez Bryant is on the free agent market struggling to find a new home. The Cowboys will be looking for a new threat in the passing game for third-year QB Dak Prescott to build chemistry with. Gallup caught 176 passes for 2,690 yards (15.3 ypc) and 21 touchdowns in his two seasons at Colorado State. Someone will have to be Prescott’s number one option when defenses load the box to stop Zeke Elliott.

Most likely to lead the NFL in turnovers…

Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets. The third overall pick out of USC had his troubles taking care of the pigskin in college, especially against top-notch competition. He’s going to see that quality and even better every week in the NFL. This doesn’t mean he won’t have a great career, Eli Manning has led the League in turnovers twice in his career and he’s probably going to get a Gold Jacket. But Darnold is being heralded as a “Savior” for a franchise that’s been dormant for nearly a decade, especially at that position. That means he’ll likely be the first of the 2018 class of QB’s to be thrown into the fire early in their career, and make several rookie mistakes.

Most likely to lead the league in tackles…

Roquan Smith (8th Overall Pick) Chicago Bears. The Georgia Bulldog linebacker could be the next great linebacker in the Bears book of great backers. The 2017 Butkus Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, racked up 252 total tackles in his three seasons “Between the Hedges.” 137 of them came last season, 14 of them for loss. Smith has a nose for the football and is always around the action. In the “Windy City” he’ll be counted on early to help the 10th ranked total defense in 2017 stop Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks…

Bradley Chubb (5th overall pick) Denver Broncos. This could very well happen in his rookie season with the attention Von Miller will attract on the other side of the field, plus linebackers Brandon Marshall, Shane Ray and Defensive End Derek Wolfe. Who do you think is going to get the least amount of attention from opposing offensive units? This answer is Chubb. The North Carolina State product recorded 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Wolfpack and 25 total in his four-year career. He also made 21 and 23 tackles for loss, proving he lives in offenses backfields.

Most likely to lead the League in interceptions (takeaways)….

Josh Jackson (2 round, pick 45) Green Bay Packers. His ball hawking skills are elite. Many have compared him to Richard Sherman, and he looked the part against Ohio State last season when he picked off 3 passes and took one to the house. The 2017 Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, intercepted 8 passes last season and took 2 back for touchdowns. He’s a big DB at 6’1″, 196 pounds, which is the direction the League is going to counter the bigger athletic wide receivers.

Most likely to be Offensive Rookie of the Year…. 

Saquon Barkley (2nd overall pick), New York Giants. You can never go wrong betting on a running back, because history has shown us they adjust to the pro game quicker. Three of the last five winners of this award were running backs. Don’t expect that to change this season. If Eli Manning continues to struggle, as he has in recent seasons, the Giants best bet to compete in what will be a highly competitive NFC East, will be to hand the ball to Barkley in the run and pass game. On another note, no Giants rookie has ever rushed for 1,000+ yards, so Barkley would be making history as well.

Most likely to be Defensive Rookie of the Year…

Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings (1 round, pick 30). The NFL is a predominant passing league, which means the players on the defensive side of the ball that have the best chance to standout are pass rushers and defensive backs. Hughes was a star for the UCF Knights self-claimed National Championship team. In his only season in Orlando, he intercepted 4 passes taking one back for six and broke up 11 passes. He’ll be playing on a defense that rank first last season. Hughes is also a return specialist, having returned 2 kickoffs and 1 punt for touchdowns last season. His involvement, and success, in special teams will catapult him into voters conscious.

Most likely to be steal of the draft…

Orlando Brown (3rd round, 83rd pick), Baltimore Ravens. Other than running back, the players that have the least struggle transitioning to the pro game are offensive lineman. The “Big Uglies” typically have the biggest upside with the lowest risk of any position. That’s why I’m going with Brown. The 2017 Unanimous All-American and two-time Big 12 Lineman of the Year had a disastrous performance at the combine, causing his draft stock to fall. But, Brown was considered a first-round talent. He comes from great pedigree. His father, the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown Senior, played six seasons for the Ravens, starting 80 games. Brown Junior will be surrounded with people who will be invested in him as a player, but as a person due to his ties with the organization.

Griffin (49) is a sentimental hero, but don’t let that blind you from the fact that he’s an elite athlete with the skills and determination to be great. Photo Courtesy: USA Today.

Most likely to be a perennial All-Pro…. 

Shaquem Griffin (5th round, 141 pick) Seattle Seahawks. Everyone fell so in love with his inspiring story, a guy playing without a hand, that they almost ignored his dominating performance for a UCF Knight team that was the only team in major college football to finish the 2017 season undefeated.

His combine test scores alone should have catapulted him into the first round, but teams were scared off by what they consider a disability. They’ll undoubtedly, regret that. Then there’s his game film. If you watched any one UCF game in 2017, you saw this guy pop off the screen. He totaled 17 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in his college career as a linebacker. You should never better against a guy that’s overcome what he has. Playing along side his twin brother in Seattle, I see him being able to lead the new era of Seahawks like he did in central Florida.

Most likely to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year…

Bradley Chubb, for the same reasons I mentioned previously as to why I feel he will lead the NFL in sacks. Pass rushers are a premium in the League, and historically, they win this award more than any other defensive positions. The last eight winners were pass rushers, Calais Campbell, Khalil Mack and JJ Watt were the most recent winners. If he can disrupt NFL QBs like his new teammate, Von Miller, he will take home this award at some point in his career.

Most likely to be NFL MVP….

This award always goes to the quarterback who’s on the team with the best record in the League. In the last ten seasons, a quarterback won the award nine times. Running Back Adrian Peterson was the exception in 2012. So of course I should pick a QB, right? Yes, and I’m going with Sam Darnold. If you’ve read this far — first off, thanks — you know I believe Darnold will be a turnover machine early on in his career, which he was in college. But, I like his overall makeup and I think the early growing pains are going to serve him greatly in his development. If he wins games in that city, for that organization, he’ll have the big market bias and narrative, voters swoon over.

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NFL Buckeyes (2017, week 6)

Ryan Shazier (50) has the leader of the Steelers D. Photo Courtesy: Steelers.com

 
Week Six in the NFL was busy for several Buckeyes with news of one being suspended, another’s season over and a couple of OSU Alumns reaching the end zone for the first time in their careers.

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of appeals in New Orleans upheld the NFL’s six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott for domestic violence. As it stands, the 2nd-year running back would not be able to return to the team until November 23rd. But Zeke and his team are looking at other options to appeal the suspension. The Dallas Cowboys are on a Bye this week and the suspension could begin starting week seven.

Indianapolis Colts starting offensive lineman Jake Mewhort was placed on injured reserve after aggravating his knee in practice. The 2014 draft pick missed six games last season with an injury to the same knee.

Philadelphia Eagles Safety Malcolm Jenkins made 2 total tackles to help Philly get their fifth win of the season on Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, 28-23. Rookie Curtis Samuel carried the ball once for eight yards in the loss. 8-year safety Kurt Coleman missed the loss with a knee injury.

The New Orleans Saints quad of Buckeyes in Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Vonn bell and Marshon Lattimore played in the wildest game of the weekend against the Detroit Lions. Ginn caught 4 passes for 66 yards, a touchdown and rushed once for 3 yards to help defeat the Lions 52-38. He also had 2 kick returns for 26 yards and 2 punt returns for 6 yards. The Saints leading receiver Michael Thomas only caught 3 passes for 11 yards. The 90 combined points are the most scored in an NFL game since 2015.

Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore intercepted his first career pass and returned it 37 yards for his first career touchdown. His returned TD was one of five defensive or special teams returns for touchdowns in the game. That’s the most in the NFL since 2012. Lattimore also collected 5 total tackles and defended 2 passes. Vonn Bell made 5 total tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss and hit the Lions quarterback Matt Stafford twice.

Ryan Shazier and Cam Heyward of the Pittsburgh Steelers led the defense in their victory over the previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs. Shazier made 4 tackles and broke up a couple of passes. Heyward made 2 tackles and registered a hit on Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith in the 19-13 win.

Houston Texans’ wide receiver Braxton Miller caught his first career touchdown in acrobatic fashion to help the Texans knock off the Cleveland Browns 33-17.

Another former Buckeye caught his first career touchdown in primetime on Sunday Night Football. Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heureman caught a 13-yard touchdown against the New York Giants. On the night he had 2 catches for a total of 24 yards in the Broncos 23-10 loss. Bradley Roby made 2 tackles in defeat. On the Giants side, Eli Apple collected 5 total tackles, defended 3 passes and recovered a fumble in the victory.

Joey Bosa had 3 tackles (2 solo), one forced fumble and a sack for the Los Angeles Chargers in their 17-16 come from behind victory over the Oakland Raiders. Oakland’s rookie cornerback Gareon Conley missed his third consecutive game with a shin injury.

Darron Lee of the New York Jets collected 6 tackles (4 solo); one pass defended and forced a fumble in their 24-17 loss in the battle for first place in the AFC East to the New England Patriots.

Terrelle Pryor Senior caught 3 passes for 27 yards for Washington in their 26-24 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Carlos Hyde scored 2 rushing touchdowns, but only had 28 yards rushing and caught 5 passes for 47 yards in defeat.

Indianapolis Colts linebacker John Simon had a huge night on Monday Night Football against the Tennessee Titans. He got his first career interception and returned it 26-yards for his first career touchdown. Simon also made 11 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack and 3 hits on Titans QB Marcus Mariota. But his career night wasn’t enough as Tennessee got the win 36-22.

Rookie safety Malik Hooker made 3 solo tackles and defended one pass, while Johnathan Hankins made 4 total tackles and got one hit in the QB in defeat.

NFL Buckeyes (2017, Week 3)

Week three of the 2017 NFL season kicked off Thursday night with an intense thrilling NFC West matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams.

The star of the night for the Niners was running back Carlos Hyde. Hyde came into the night as the NFL leader in yards per carry after having an explosive game last Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted defense. The self-proclaimed “El Guapo” scored two rushing touchdowns to go along with 84 rushing yards on 25 carries, and 3 catches for 10 yards. But it wasn’t enough as the Rams held on late to win 41-39.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Buckeye Duo of Ryan Shazier and Cam Heyward played in the craziest game of the day in the “Windy City” against the Chicago Bears. Shazier led all players with 11 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Heyward added 3 solo tackles. Pittsburgh suffered its first loss of the season in overtime 23-17.

Three Buckeyes led the way for the New Orleans Saints in their 34-13 win over NFC South division rival Carolina Panthers. 2nd-year wideout Mike Thomas caught 7 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, Ted Ginn Junior caught 2 passes for 44 yards and a touchdown to go along with one carry for 15 yards, while defensive back Vonn Bell had 4 tackles (2 solo) to help the Saints get their first win of the 2017 season. Rookie Marshon Lattimore missed the game with a concussion. 8th year safety Kurt Coleman made 9 tackles (6 solo) and rookie Curtis Samuel had 2 catches for 5 yards and one carry for 31 rushing yards in the loss for the Panthers.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins had 7 tackles (5 solo) in the Eagles 27-24 win over Eli Apple and the New York Giants. Apple made 5 tackles (3 solo) and linebacker Curtis Grant made one tackle in defeat. The Giants are now 0-3, while Philadelphia moved to 2-1.

Malik “ball-hawk” Hooker grabbed his 2nd career interception for the Indianapolis Colts against the Cleveland Browns. His first came last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Hooker also made 3 tackles (2 solo). John Simon had 6 tackles (4 solo) and a sack as Indy got their first win of the season 31-28.

Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby collected 4 tackles (3 solo) and broke up one pass in their 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Tight end Jeff Heuerman missed the game with a shoulder injury. On Buffalo’s side, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington made 2 solo tackles in the win.

Braxton Miller caught one pass for 15 yards for the Houston Texans in their 36-33 loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Patriots special teams star Nate Ebner made 2 tackles for the winners.

Darron Lee made 2 solo tackles for the New York Jets in their 20-6 win over the Miami Dolphins. Joey Bosa made 6 tackles (3 solo) and a half sack for the Los Angeles Chargers in their 24-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs

On Sunday Night Football, two former Buckeyes lined up against each other. Washington wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Senior against the team that drafted him to play quarterback, the Oakland Raiders and rookie cornerback Gareon Conley. Pryor caught two passes for 19 yards to help Washington move to 2-1 with a 27-10 victory over Oakland. Conley had 4 tackles (3 solo) in defeat.

Ezekiel Elliott had a bounce back game for the Dallas Cowboys against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football to close out week three. Elliott, who rushed for only 8 yards on 9 carries last week against the Denver Broncos, had 80 rushing yards on 22 carries and scored a touchdown. He also made 3 catches for 14 yards to help the Cowboys win 28-17. Rookie Noah Brown caught his first NFL pass for 13 yards for Dallas. Rod Smith made one tackle on special teams for the Cowboys. Offensive tackle Alex Boone made his 2017 debut with the Arizona Cardinals. He started the season in training camp with the Minnesota Vikings.

NFL Buckeyes (2017, Week 1)

Rookies Marshon Lattimore and Pat Elflein share a moment after playing their first game as NFL players. Photo Courtesy: NFL snapchat

While Buckeye Nation attempts to process what happened Saturday night in the 31-16 loss to Oklahoma, several former Buckeyes made their 2017 debuts in the League.

Seven Buckeyes were selected at April’s draft, three in the first round. In all, 42 Ohio State Alumni opened the season on NFL rosters.

The Indianapolis Colts have five former Buckeyes on their team. The New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys are tied for second with four each.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is the most notable of the former Buckeyes. Elliott’s team faced off against his former 2014 National championship teammate cornerback Eli Apple and the New York Giants. Elliott rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries and caught 5 passes for 36 yards in “America’s Team’s” 19-3 victory. Apple made 7 tackles (5 solo) in defeat for the “G-Men.”

New York Jets 2nd-year linebacker Darron Lee collected 10 tackles (7 solo) and a sack in his team’s 21-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier and Cam Heyward made their return to the Buckeye State in their season opener against the Cleveland Browns. Shazier had 7 tackles (4 solo), while Heyward had a sack, a tackle for loss and 3 tackles (1 solo) in the Steelers 21-18 win over the Browns.

The Carolina Panthers and their three Buckeyes of Kurt Coleman, rookie Curtis Samuel and offensive lineman Andrew Norwell lined up against running back Carlos Hyde and the San Francisco 49ers. Coleman made 6 solo tackles in Carolina’s 23-3 win. Samuel was limited with an ankle injury. Hyde rushed for 45 yards on 9 carries and had 6 catches for 32 yards in the loss.

Terrelle Pryor Senior caught 6 passes for 66 yards in his debut with Washington against NFC East rival the Philadelphia Eagles. 9-year vet, Safety Malcolm Jenkins had 4 tackles for the Eagles in their 30-17 win in the Nation’s capital.

The Indianapolis Colts quintuplets of Bucks had a difficult opening day against the Los Angeles Rams. LA won by a score of 46-9. Jonathan Hankins had 2 solo tackles, John Simon collected 6 tackles (5 solo) and rookie safety Malik Hooker had 4 tackles (3 solo) in defeat. Tyvis Powell and Jake Mewhort didn’t register any statistics.

Several Bucks had to wait until Monday night to start their 2017 season. Ted Ginn Junior, Mike Thomas, Vonn Bell and Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints took on center Pat Elflein the Minnesota Vikings. Thomas caught 5 passes for 45 yards, while Ginn Junior made 4 catches for 53 yards and had one rush for 5 yards in the Saints 29-19 loss. Defensively Lattimore made 4 solo tackles in his NFL debut. Elflein the 70th overall pick (3rd round) in the 2017 draft made the first start of his career.

Joey Bosa and the Los Angeles Chargers went to Denver to face Bradley Roby, Jeff Heurerman and the Broncos in the second of the Monday Night Football double header. Roby had 5 tackles (3 solo), 2 passes defensed and a key interception in the Broncos 24-21 win. Tight end Jeff Heuerman had one catch for twenty yards to help progress a scoring drive. Bosa made 6 tackles (3 solo), and 1.5 sacks in defeat.

The Denver Broncos Mt. Rushmore

Broncos Country is home to the reigning Super Bowl champs.

The defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos are still riding miles high from this past season’s victorious ending.

The Super Bowl 50 win brought the “Orange Crush” it’s third Lombardi Trophy in team history. Overall in their 55 seasons of pro football, the Broncos have also won 8 AFC Championships, 15 Division titles, and made the playoffs 22 times.

The organization is as accomplished, or more than, many of the franchises that have been around twice as long as they have. And, the following four guys are most responsible for that.

CRITERIA:

  • No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for those contributors soon.
  • Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
  • Can you tell the franchise’s story without them? If no, they’re on the list.

John Elway (1983-1999 as player; 2011-present as GM & VP of football operations) is by far the most recognized and beloved Bronco in team history. He’s the team’s all-time leader in wins (148), passing yards (51,475), which is 4th in NFL history, passing touchdowns (300), completions (4,123) and attempts (7,250). The 9-time Pro Bowl and 3-time All-Pro selection led Denver to 2 Super Bowl Championships (XXXII, XXXIII) and 5 AFC Championship titles, he’s added another Super Bowl (50) trophy and 2 more AFC Championship titles to his resume as the General Manager and Vice President of Football Operations with the franchise, although his place was solidified due to his playing career. The 1987 NFL MVP was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII and is a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team, the Broncos Ring of Honor and has his jersey number 7 retired by the team. In 2004, Elway was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Terrell Davis (1995-2001) didn’t have the longest career in the NFL compared to many greats I’ve mentioned on other team’s Mount Rushmore, but his impact was extremely significant to Denver’s history. Plus, many make it clear to mention, Elway never won a Super Bowl without T.D. Davis is the Broncos all-time leader in rushing yards (7,607), rushing touchdowns (60) and rushing attempts (1,655). He helped the Broncos win 2 Super Bowl titles (XXXII, XXXIII) and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXII. The 6th round draft pick won NFL MVP in 1998, the same season he surpassed the 2,000 yard rushing mark. #30 was a 3-time Pro Bowl and 3-time All-Pro selection, a member of the NFL 1990’s All-Decade and Broncos 50th Anniversary Teams. He is one of only six players to rush for more than a 1,000-yards (1,140) in the postseason, and he’s the only one to do it and play less than 12 seasons.

Mike Shanahan (1995-2008) is the Broncos all-time leader in wins by a coach with 138. He led the Broncos to their first 2 Super Bowl victories (XXXII, XXXIII) and the playoffs 7 times during his tenure. The team set the NFL record for most victories (46-10) in a three-year period until his leadership.

Karl Mecklenburg (1983-1994) is one of the stars of Denver’s original “Orange Crush” defense that helped the Broncos win 3 AFC Championships (1986, 1987, 1989). He finished his career as the second all-time leading sacker in team history, and was a 6-time Pro Bowl and 4-time All-Pro selection. Mecklenburg was inducted into the Broncos Ring of Honor in 2001.

There you have it Broncos Country. Did I get it right? If not, who should be here instead? Shannon Sharpe? Rod Smith? Tom Jackson? Or Champ Bailey? Let me hear from you.

Steelers Gutsy in Playoff Defeat

 

Denver outlast Pittsburgh 23-16. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

All loses hurt, but probably even more in the postseason. Especially when you have a fourth quarter lead as the Pittsburgh Steelers did before losing 23-16 to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round.

But it’s difficult to be upset or place blame on anyone after this Steelers performance being short handed and banged up. If anything, there has to be a high level of pride from Steelers Nation with how their beloved heroes fought.

The Steelers are the first team in the Super Bowl era to play a playoff game without their leading rusher and receiver from the regular season. Essentially, Ben Roethlisberger and the offense were playing with house money because no one gave them a chance to advance to the AFC Championship game.

For the first 45 to 50 minutes of this game, the Pittsburgh D played out of its mind and had control. They held the Broncos to 3/16 on 3rd & 4th downs for the game. In the first half, Denver was able to only gain 164 yards (99 passing,65 rushing) resulting in 3 field goals. The Broncos receivers also helped by dropping 6 passes in the game.

But like most of the Steelers season, the defense was left on the field too long as the offense was not able to sustain any long drives to give them a rest. In that altitude, that is a recipe for a loss. Denver won the time of possession battle 31:33 to 28:27, even though it was 16:10 to 13:50 in favor of the Steelers in the first half. The result, the Broncos went on to score 14 second half points.

Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards in defeat. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Pittsburgh’s shorthanded offense surprisingly handled it’s own for a majority of the game against the number one ranked total defense. Ben Roethlisberger never showed any ill affects of his sprained throwing shoulder that kept him out of practice for most of the week. #7 was 24/37 for 339 yards, and is the only QB to throw for more than 300 yards on the vaunted Denver D. He also did it back in the Week 15 34-27 victory over the Broncos.

As much talk as there was coming into the game about who could replace wide receiver Antonio Brown in his absence with a concussion, it didn’t appear they missed him. Martavis Bryant caught 9 passes for a 154 yards to go along with 2 carries for 40 yards. The Steelers had 133 yards in the 1st quarter alone which was the most allowed by the Broncos in a 1st quarter all season. Pittsburgh had more total yards in the first 3 quarters (312) than Denver allowed per game in the regular season (283.1).

But just like in Cincinnati against the Bengals last week, and most of the regular season, the offense had to settle too many times for field goals. They were 1-3 in the red zone on the afternoon.

Most fans and analyst will point the finger at running back Fitzgerald Toussaint for fumbling at the Denver 35 yard line with 10 minutes remaining in the game, as the Steelers driving for a potential knockout shot. Yes, that was the turning point. But special teams was atrocious all game. Jordan Berry shanked two punts for 27 yard that gave the Broncos great field position, as well as his first punt of 52 yards that Omar Bolden returned 42 yards to set up the first of three Denver field goals.

Markus Wheaton was a nightmare as a punt returner with two muffed punts that thankfully were recovered by the Steelers. If there is anywhere the Steelers clearly missed Brown, it was as a punt returner. Wheaton’s longest return of the day was 12 yards.

Even with the injuries and inconsistent play, Pittsburgh was in control of this game for 50 minutes. It’s a shame they loss, but this game was a microcosm of the season: injuries, defense unable to hold on, and settling for field goals. That’s the story of the 2015 Steelers.

OTHER NOTES:

Ben Roethlisberger passed Terry Bradshaw for most passing yards in Steelers postseason history with his 132 in the first half. He now has 4,052 for his career. Roethlisberger is now 4-2 in road playoff games. Both losses were at Denver, the other was the 2011 Wild Card game versus Tim Tebow that ended on the first play of overtime.

Steelers-Broncos: Divisional Preview

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers will face off against the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional round. And with two hobbled starting quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger with the injured right throwing shoulder, and Peyton Manning with plantar fasciitis that limited him to only 10 games this season.

Pittsburgh won the first meeting of the 2015 season in Heinz Field, 34-27 in week 15 after coming back from a 27-13 halftime deficit. Roethlisberger was threw for 380 yards on 40/55 with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But, the Mile High City has been sort of a house of horrors for him and the Steelers in recent memory.

The last time the Steelers were in Denver was back in 2012. Peyton Manning passed for 253 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19/26, leading the Broncos to a 31-19 win in his first game with his new team, after missing all of the previous season. That meeting, came eight months after the Steelers lost to the Broncos 29-23 on the first play of overtime on an 80 yard pass and catch from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. That was the day in which the Pittsburgh D gave up a career high 316 passing yards and 2 touchdowns to Tebow. See, giving up career high games to quarterbacks has been the norm for the Black & Yellow for a handful of seasons now. Not just the four they allowed this season to Russell Wilson, Johnny Manziel, Aaron McCarron and Ryan Mallet.

Ben Roethlisberger is 3-4 vs. Broncos as a starter in his career. That includes the 2005 AFC Championship victory in Denver. Head coach Mike Tomlin is 2-3 vs Denver in his tenure.

But it’s not all bad for Tomlin, Roethlisberger and company. #7 is 4-0 in divisional games, and moved to 5-0 as the 6th seed with last Saturday’s victory. They’re also the only team to score 30+ points this season on the Broncos fourth ranked scoring D and first ranked in total yards in the NFL.

There are some nuggets that should have Peyton Manning and Bronco fans concerned. Manning, who hasn’t started a game since November 15th against the Kansas City Chiefs when he was benched after throwing 4 interceptions, has been held under 300 yards passing in 4 of 5 meetings all-time against Pittsburgh. Nine times he’s lost the first playoff game, six of them at home. That includes the 2005 Divisional loss to Roethlisberger and the Steelers when Peyton was with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is 3-2 all-time vs. Steelers, that includes playoffs.

Also, the coaching edge in this matchup has to go to Mike Tomlin. He’s not only a Super Bowl Champion and 2-time AFC Champ, he’s 6-4 in the postseason. While his counterpart on the other sideline, Gary Kubiak is just 2-2 in his postseason career.

At the time of this post, wide receiver Antonio Brown, who had 16 receptions for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns in the week 15 matchup, still hasn’t passed the concussion protocol which would keep him out of Sunday’s game. Running back DeAngelo Williams hasn’t practice since injuring his right ankle against the Cleveland Browns in the regular season ending victory, and could also miss this game. Roethlisberger has yet to test his ability to throw with that injured shoulder in practice. Injuries has been the theme to this Steeler team all season going back to training camp. If their season is to continue, they’ll have to overcome this hurdle once again.

The Steelers are 7 point underdogs, and the over-under is 39.5.  Kickoff is scheduled for 4:40 pm on Sunday.